Why we should give into grade inflation (and graphs of the day)

First, some data:




Original source. Hat tip to the always excellent James Choi at Yale.

I don’t really have strong feelings about grade inflation. I find it very straightforward to sort work into four or five piles, by quality, and it makes little difference to me whether I call those A+, A, A-,… or A, B, C, …

Of course everyone wil scream “negative externality”. This is not a gross societal ill so far as I can tell. It’s not clear to me that anyone ever looks at your grades for the rest of your life.

Well, grad schools and some grant competitions will. Here students who come from schools with lower GPAs probably have a slight disadvantage. All the times I have sat on admissions committees, I haven’t a clue whether a school is inflated or not. There are too many. And we do look at GPA. But because I know there is heterogeneity I don’t take it too seriously, which is why I think the advantage is narrow.

In this light, the trend is unsurprising. Schools have every incentive to move to the highest four or five piles possible. Eventually they all will. Then grade inflation will stop because, barring someone inventing the A+**+^ (which I would not put past some private schools), there will be nowhere to go. We will all have the same four or five piles.

So why resist the new equilibrium?

And that, folks, is your poorly considered opinion of the day.